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Triumphant return for Leonard

Toronto, Wednesday @PeopleSports11

Kawhi Leonard returned with 31 points as the Toronto Raptors bounced back from their first loss of the National Basketball Association (NBA) season to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in a hard-fought Eastern Conference duel on Tuesday.

Leonard, who had been rested for Toronto’s defeat against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, also had seven rebounds and four assists after the Raptors saw off a late charge from the Sixers to seal a 129-112 win.

The victory saw Toronto improve to 7-1, while the Sixers are at 4-4 after another uneven performance from Brett Brown’s side.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 23 points while Kyle Lowry added 20 for the Raptors, who built up a comfortable 35-26 lead in the first quarter to take control of the contest thereafter.

Toronto led 67-53 at half-time and looked to be cruising to victory until a fightback from the Sixers late in the fourth quarter.

A three-pointer from Joel Embiid got the Sixers back to within striking distance at 117-111 with 3min 30sec left in the fourth quarter, before Toronto went on a 12-0 run with a late burst of scoring to make the game safe.

Cameroon star Embiid led the scoring for the Sixers with 31 points while Robert Covington had 15 points. J.J. Redick had 13 off the bench.

In Boston, Kyrie Irving scored 31 points to lead the Celtics to a 108-105 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Blake Griffin had another solid outing for the Pistons with 24 points but the Celtics subdued a fourth quarter Pistons rally to improve to 5-2 to move up to third in the Eastern Conference table.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers snagged their first win of the season, two days after firing head coach Tyronn Lue.

The Cavs have made a disastrous start to the season in the post-LeBron James era, losing all six of their opening matches and prompting team owners to hand Lue his marching orders on Sunday.

But the Cavs finally found their scoring touch against the Atlanta Hawks, running out 136-114 winners to get off the mark for the season.

Guard Rodney Hood topscored with 26 points, as seven Cleveland players cracked double figures.

Trae Young had 24 points for the Hawks, while Alex Len scored 22. Jeremy Lin added 12 points off the bench for Atlanta. The Cavs were without star forward Kevin Love, who confirmed earlier on Tuesday that he faces several weeks on the sidelines with a big toe injury on his left foot.                 – AFP

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